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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The nationwide surge in coronavirus cases is forcing many school districts to pull back from in-person instruction.

Why it matters: Remote learning is a burden on parents, teachers and students. But the wave of new infections, and its strain on some hospitals' capacity, makes all forms of reopening harder to justify.

Where it stands: Over 60% of U.S. public school students will be attending schools with in-person options, up 20% from Labor Day, Education Dive reports. But some of those districts are pulling back.

  • Spikes in COVID-19 cases are forcing two Salt Lake County high schools to close their doors and switch to online-only instruction — in a district where half the high schools were already closed, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
  • Both Boston and Chicago's public school districts shut down in-person learning as health officials investigate outbreaks in nearby suburbs.
  • Nineteen Minnesota counties are on the verge of closing their K-12 schools for the foreseeable future because of rising coronavirus cases, the Pioneer Press reports.
  • A high school in Milwaukee had to close after six staff members had to quarantine this week.
  • Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland became the first county in the state to scale back learning in classrooms after officials pushed schools to reopen, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The other side: Early evidence suggests that in-person school reopening have been safe — fears that they'd become hotspots haven't come to pass.

  • Some experts say local governments trying to contain their outbreaks should close bars and restaurants first, shutting down schools only as a last resort.
  • That's the approach Germany took this week. The government will allow schools and day cares to remain open while paying bars and restaurants to shut down, in an effort to curb the rise in cases.

The bottom line: School districts are in a tough spot as they try to juggle the safety of their staff, frustrated parents and the needs of their students.

Go deeper

Politicians come under fire for flouting COVID-19 rules

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Public officials across the U.S. are issuing new stay-at-home orders while urging Americans to practice social distancing, as coronavirus infections surge at an alarming pace.

Yes, but: A growing list of politicians have come under fire for shirking (at times, their own) restrictions and advisories aimed at preventing viral spread.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.

Updated 22 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Highlights from Biden and Harris' first joint interview since the election

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.